The summer shuffle is coming soon: juniors, sophomores, and the not-so-green freshmen rise in rank, and the wide-eyed middle schoolers stumble into high school. The group dynamics of youth ministry make a major adjustment every year. You may have a plan for celebrating your graduates, but how do you welcome a new rising class into the fold? Here’s what works to keep the seasonal shift of students low on the seismic scale.
- Make a personal invitation
In this era of social media announcements and web calendars, an old-fashioned invitation in the mail, on the telephone, or in person may be the push a student needs to try something new. A personal invite is especially effective if it comes from a peer. Get your student leaders involved to reach out.
- Mix it up
Balance out small groups with a mix of students of different ages and interests. Put everyone on equal footing by giving every student, no matter their age or experience in the group, a fresh start at the kickoff of the year (and multiple times throughout the year).
- Keep it freestanding
Offer short and sweet get-togethers with no carryover from previous gatherings. Instead, focus on building relationships by providing opportunities to share information and news and express opinions, perspectives, and feelings. Stick to advertised start and end times to honor busy schedules and ease anxieties.
- Go out to play
Hype a launch event that is a summer tradition. Get outdoors and play. Be active and messy. Work on a service project. Hike, kayak, paint, clean, plant, cook over an open fire: shared experiences like these are bonding moments. When you set and achieve a goal together, everyone benefits.
- Build bridge experiences
Guide peer leaders to recognize and celebrate key teen benchmarks with each other, like the changing of a grade, earning a driver’s license, getting braces on and off, going to a big dance, and more. Help students rely on each other and realize that they are not alone in the ups and downs.
- Be in it together
Work with students to create a simple covenant to set the tone of the culture of your ministry together. Make promises and keep them. Aspire to grow and consider what it takes to be welcoming at all times.
When God remains the constant in the ever-evolving seasons of ministry, the biggest growth spurt of the summer can be in your youth. Dance your way through the summer shuffle.